Autism is a complex set of neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental conditions. Autistic children have impairments in social interactions, communication skills and language development. They also are stuck with rigid repetitive behaviours.
Children with autism can't generally understand feelings of others and can't express themselves. Some affected children may be very sensitive to certain sounds, sights, touches and smells that they may get pained due to exposure to these elements.
Autism is almost 4 times higher in boys than girls. According to statistics published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014 every 1 in 48 boys and 1 in 189 girls is autistic.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism
- Social interaction difficulties
- Communication challenges
- Repetitive behaviours
The symptoms of autism are wide ranging depending on the combinations of the severity of each of the following aspect.
- Mood disorders -
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Immune dysfunction
- GI disorders
Each case of autism is different as the above symptoms vary in different degrees of severities. In one child a particular symptom may be completely absent whereas the other may be vary severe and all the rest in different combination.Each patient requires different therepy and special care. However, some of the behavioral and communication therapies may be common for most cases of autism.
Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
Autism has been classified in different types in different times as the understanding of the condition continued to increase. Before May 2013 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), autism was classified in the four sub-types as under:
- Autistic Disorder, also known as autism, childhood autism, early infantile autism, Kanner's syndrome or infantile psychosis.
- Asperger Syndrome, also known as Asperger's disorder or simply Asperger's.
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as CDD, dementia infantalis, disintegrative psychosis or Heller's syndrome.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), also known as PDD (NOS) or atypical autism.
But since May 2013 all the above four sub-types have been dissolved in to one diagnosis called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to the APA, this is an effort to more accurately diagnose all children and adults showing the signs of autism.
What Causes ASD?
Causes of Autism are still a mystery, but recent scientific researchers in the last one decade have identified more than 100 genes changes and mutations that can cause autism.
They have also found that not only genetic predisposition but environmental risks also can impair early brain development of a child. These environmental factors include
- Advanced parental age at the time of conception
- Maternal illness during pregnancy
- Extreme prematurity of birth
- Very low birth weight
- Oxygen deprivation to the brain of child during birth
- Mother's exposure to high levels of pesticides and other harmful chemicals
These factors along with genetic risk factors increase probabilities of birth of an autistic child. Some of the environmental factors may be in your control but most of them are not.
Many different biomedical treatments are used in autism, but except for medications used to treat seizures and behavioral and emotional problems associated with autism, there is no medical treatment available for autism.
Autism is usually a lifelong condition, therefore it is best to begin intervention as soon as possible. The benefits of therapy which can can reduce symptoms and increase skills and abilities should continue throughout life. A pediatrician generally refer the child to a specialist in developmental disorders.
There is no specific standard therapy for autism. You will notice that different professionals have different philosophies and practices in caring for their patients. Do a little bit of survey, talk to more than one specialist to finalise the one with whom you feel most comfortable and would like to give therapy to your child. Getting referrals from family, friends and healthcare professionals is a good starting point to meet the therapists.
Ask questions and be fully aware of all the options so that an informed decision can be made.
All reputed specialists will present each type of treatment, provide the pros and cons. They will make recommendations based on published treatment guidelines and their own experiences. Be sure to understand exactly what will be done and why, and what is the expected outcomes of each choice.
You may come across conflicting views from different professionals each with excellent credentials and experience. They may disagree about what is the best approach for the child.
You as parent will have to decide what is good for your child and what makes sense for him or her. Since each case of autism is different, an individualized treatment plan designed to meet his or her unique needs is a necessity. Most children with autism show developmental progress and respond to a combination of treatment and education.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that the earlier behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapy is begun, the better the long-term outcome.
Professionals use combinations of the behavioral, educational, biomedical, and complementary therapies.
Other Facts and Tips
Don't simply assume that the children with autism are completely challenged and have no skills. Following are some of the skills they possess whcih may surpass the skill levels of the normal children.
- Math skills
- Computer skills
- Musical ability
- Artistic ability
- Excellent sense of direction
- Ability to think in a visual way
- Strong long term memory skills
- Special ability to decode written language at an early age
- Extraordinary ability to understand concrete concepts, rules and sequences
- Ability to be extremely focused (on a preferred activity)
So don't give up autistic children, give them opportunity to grow in their own skils in which they are good.